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A few seconds later, they were there, outside the third-floor corridor – and the door [into the room that is protected by the three-headed dog] was already ajar. (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone)

Having climbed up a set of staircases, we can expect we meet a hall that is the entrance of certain corridor, or the corridor itself. Then what is ‘outside the corridor’?

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In my experience, being "outside the corridor" is not a phrase which would be used in spoken English (at least not in the sense of 'corridor' being used here), given that a corridor is not usually considered as a room in its own right.

However, in this specific instance, I believe that the characters have been told explicitly not to enter the third-floor corridor and it's this establishment of it as a location which makes the phrasing more palatable.

I would imagine "outside the third-floor corridor" to refer to an alcove at the top of the staircase from which the corridor is visible, but is distinctly not part of the corridor.

It's an odd and rare usage though, which you'd be unlikely to hear or see elsewhere. Even the mentions here don't seem to refer to 'corridor' in its physical sense.

  • I think it sounds odd to us because we don't live in the sort of houses where it makes sense. Hogwarts, being an old castle, has additions on additions on modifications of additions. Things don't always meet up where they're supposed to, so you get two bits of hallway, both purportedly on the third level, but with several feet of height difference between them. Thus, you end up with steps and a door... which leads from one corridor to another. – Martha Aug 9 '13 at 13:35
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    @Martha Also, it is common for a stair or elevator to pause at a "landing" which is on the same level as but visually distinct from the corridor beyond - sometimes even separated from it by a door. – StoneyB Aug 9 '13 at 15:33

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